May 4, 2018

Sierra Nevada Road Trip

Checking out some of the stunning landscapes of eastern California.

Recently, I browsed my old harddrive and stumbled upon pics from this road trip. It happened during the spring of 2013, two years before I started with this blog. Looking at them brought back good memories, and I thought "might as well share that." So, here's it:

The plan was simple, start in Vegas and make a quick loop west, up the Sierra Nevada, and back. Even without some fancy planning, it's hard to go wrong on this, as the region is densely doted national parks and preserves. Two of them, the Death Valley and Yosemite, were our main targets.

As we crossed the state border, the surroundings were dry, desert-ish lands with occasional ruins from the past. Some saw these as junk, polluting the otherwise pristine nature. But I enjoyed them - I saw it as an opportunity to learn bits about local history. A bunch of mining once took place around here, and these ruins were better than any illustrated book about the topic. Then we drove further, to a different world..

Before we went over the mountain range, we saw Mono Lake, which is like another open-air museum, this time showcasing geology, ecosystem, and traces of native tribes.

The whole area is spectacular. One moment you drive below the sea-level elevation, and before you know it, there are 13,000ft / 3500m+ mountains all over. Speaking of driving, we took on California's highest highway pass, Tioga, and crossing it was a tremendous joy. Until we got stuck behind some motorhome – which; mainly during the summer months, seemed like an inevitable curse. But was hard to be upset, when all we needed to do was to stop for a while and enjoy the views:

...and then return behind the wheel to have the road empty for some time again. This pattern then continued all the way to Yosemite Valley. Now, once the outlook opened, it was an experience.

The whole area is, as mentioned, very scenic from top to bottom - it kept us happy, and we didn't ask for more. However, when we got to the valley, it surpassed all expectations. Steep, massive rock surfaces were liberally decorated by waterfalls, many of which are over 300ft / 100m tall. The king of them has insane 2,425ft / 739m.

Talking about some jaw-dropping effect there. The only issue was, that if the pass had an occasional traffic jam now and then, the valley was a constant one. Like driving in Chicago's downtown during the rush hour; only here, the walls are natural granite and trees, not concrete and glass. That being said, we left the car in a lot and went on foot, trying to escape the crowds. It worked only up to a certain degree; we didn't have the time to do some massive hikes. Yet, we even saw some wildlife.

"Maybe one day I will be able to come back and do some hiking, find some calm spots, and spend there the time this place deserves," I hoped.

Still, I was beyond thrilled that I had a chance to get a glimpse of it.

And then drive on the other side again..

...where the environment changed just as fast as before; boom, desert.

That had an element of surprise for me. Before heading here, I expected some badlands, some dry soil, rocks, but sand dunes? Nope. Turned out, they are pretty epic. are the other features. Seriously, the colors of all those oxidized rocks are ridiculous.

They even named this portion as "Artist's Palette." This has to awaken an inner geologist in everyone. The out-of-this-world scenery peaks at the famous Zabriskie Point.

The sun was getting close to the horizon, and a quick look at a map pointed us toward Dante's View..

..which proved itself as a grand location to observe the sunset.

When the sunshine left, so did we. As the darkness fell, it was time to head back to Nevada.

If you liked this article, you might enjoy my other road trips in the USA, such as:

Rays in the woods

"St Louis:" Exploring the Gateway to the West.


"Colorado:" Getting across the USA's colorful state.

Alternatively, visit my Blog Archives for more categories and topics. Thanks for reading!

Published by: Jakub Stepanovic in Stories